Diversity in the women’s double
On the last day of finals at the 2013 World Rowing Championships in Chungju, Korea the best women’s double scullers in the world will be racing for gold.
The field has been narrowed from 14 nations to six and with 22 years separating the youngest (19-year-old Milda Valciukaite of Lithuania) and oldest (41-year-old Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus), this final highlights the incredible diversity of athletes in Chungju.
The post-Olympic year has seen newcomers and new combinations in the boat class. Of the crews in the World Championship final, three of the six have won gold a World Cup this season and all except Germany have medalled internationally. At the first World Cup in Sydney the New Zealand team of Fiona Bourke and Zoe Stevenson came out on top, but they were absent from the second World Cup. In front of home audiences the British crew, Frances Houghton and Victoria Meyer-Laker out-sprinted Denmark at the World Cup in Eton Dorney. At their first World Cup of the season – the World Cup in Lucerne, Lithuania stole the show, pushing Great Britain off the podium all-together.
“It has been six weeks since our last race. Everyone wants first place and all of the crews are well-prepared, it won’t be easy,” says Lithuania’s Donata Vistartaite. After competing for several years in the single, Vistartaite teamed up with Milda Valciukaite from the 2012 World Championship junior women’s double, in February.
“Milda is much younger, but she is getting better and so we tried the double. In the single you fight for yourself, but in the double you keep pushing because it’s not just for you, you’re doing it for somebody else,” Vistartaite continues.
The rowing world has been memorised by this photogenic young duo and they have increased the interest in this event which will be raced on Sunday 1 September at 15:18 (local Korean time). Lithuania will have their work cut out for them in the final.
Following in the footsteps of Olympic Champions Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger, Great Britain has put together a new combination. In bow seat is four-time World Champion and two-time Olympic silver medallist Frances Houghton paired with the young Victoria Meyer-Laker who stepped out of the British eight.
“It has been a few years since I have been in a double so my biggest challenge has been learning the differences in my role in the boat compared to the quad. I have more responsibility, but it’s very refreshing to have a change,” Houghton says.
Also on the course is the Belarusian double of Ekaterina Karsten and Yuliya Bichyk. Karsten, the oldest and most celebrated rower in this field, began competing internationally before fellow competitor Valciukaite was born. Karsten held the record for the highest number of consecutive international wins (15) until the New Zealand men’s pair broke that record at these championships. This year Karsten decided to double with three-time World Champion Bichyk. This double is arguably the most experienced on the course and they will be looking to use this to their advantage in the final.
Houghton aptly says, “Every other double is very good. We are excited about racing such great people.”